A school English module which was claimed to portray an “utterly, despicably one-sided” view of the IRA hunger strikes has been withdrawn after objections were made by unionists.
Last month UUP leader Mike Nesbitt called for the immediate removal of the teaching guide, for 11-14 year-olds, which accompanies the novel Bog Child.
The issue came to light after a constituent contacted Upper Bann UUP MLA Jo-Anne Dobson to express “utter disgust” that his son had been asked to write a report which “put themselves in the shoes” of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands.
Yesterday a UUP delegation of party leader Mike Nesbitt, education spokesman Danny Kinahan and Ms Dobson met with the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) to press for its withdrawal.
During the meeting, the UUP said it was informed that CCEA was withdrawing the Bog Child teaching guidance. Mrs Dobson welcomed the move.
“The Chief Executive of CCEA admitted that the teaching guidance was imbalanced and it was on this basis that the notes were being withdrawn, reviewed and will be rewritten at a later date,” she said.
Mr Kinahan added: “We welcome the open and honest engagement by CCEA on this issue and their decision to withdraw the guidance notes. We must also thank Jo-Anne`s constituent who brought this matter to the Ulster Unionist Party’s attention.”
He said the issue caused “tremendous hurt” within the wider community.
Mr Kinahan said he hopes that CCEA will put procedures in place “to ensure that all guidance to schools will be created in a balanced and sensitive manner”.
A CCEA spokesman responded that it “agreed to review the resource in the context of issues raised during the meeting”.
He added: “During the review period the resource will be taken down from the Northern Ireland Curriculum website. On completion of the review it will be republished online.”
He added that there is no plan to recall hard copies of the resource that have already been published.
Speaking in the Assembly last month, Mr Nesbitt said of the teaching resource: “How dare the Department of Education ask pupils to put themselves in the shoes of hunger strikers! What about the shoes of the prison warders who had to carry out their jobs during dirty protests and hunger strikes, constantly having to endure the whispered death threats from inmates directed at their wives and children? What about the prison officers who were murdered?”
He also railed sceptically against testimonies in the guide, one of which he said quoted an unnamed source as expressing how she “often felt deeply ashamed” that her father was a warden in the Maze Prison.
Mr Nesbitt said the guide encourages children to study “factual writing” of the day “but not from respected journalists”, but rather from former Sinn Fein press officer Danny Morrison “who came up with the infamous phrase ‘an armalite in one hand and a ballot paper in the other’.”
CCEA is an arms-length body from the Department of Education.
A department spokesman said last night that they had no comment to make.